INDIANAPOLIS – There has been no doubt who the strongest team has been throughout this year’s rugged World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series campaign. Tony Stewart-Curb Agajanian Racing’s (TSR) Donny Schatz and his Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance team have earned 21 victories in the first 52 races and have finished first or second in the last 18 consecutive full-points-paying WoO A-Feature events.
The next challenge for the reigning WoO champions during Sprint car racing’s richest month is the seventh annual Ironman 55 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 near St. Louis. The 55-pound dumbbell awarded to the Ironman 55 winner is one of the few pieces of hardware that has eluded the six-time WoO champion. One goal for Schatz and his TSR team throughout 2015 has been to improve their results from seasons past. Second place is as close as Schatz has come to winning the Outlaws’ longest race of the season, and he is looking forward taking another crack at the one-third mile dirt oval Friday and Saturday nights.
The results to date for Schatz in the TSR No. 15 Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance J&J have been remarkable, and the Fargo, North Dakota driver is anxious to continue building on them. Last weekend, Mother Nature washed out two nights of action in eastern Canada, marking the first time since February the team has had more than a week between races. This weekend’s two nights of racing in Pevely, Missouri leads up to next week’s 55th annual FVP Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals, the sport’s signature event, which begins next Wednesday.
Schatz heads to the outskirts of St. Louis with the goal of ending a 16-race winless streak at I-55 that dates back to April Fools’ Day 2006. Schatz won his only career A-Feature at the track early in his first WoO championship season and has been extremely consistent at the challenging track since. He has earned 27 top-10s in 35 career starts at the track. He has finished second in the last three Ironman 55 main events. In 2013, he charged from the 13th-starting position and, last year, he started fourth and led laps two through 20 before finishing behind Kerry Madsen. Earlier this season, Schatz started 16th and finished sixth in the 40-lap A-Feature.
That sixth-place finish in April was one of only a dozen finishes outside the top-five for Schatz in 52 A-Features this season. Schatz leads the WoO championship standings with 7,281 points and holds a 366-point advantage over Shane Stewart. He also leads several other statistical categories including: top-fives with 40, top-10s with 48, and laps led with 436.
Both Friday and Saturday at I-55, the pit gates will open at noon CDT and grandstands open at 4 p.m. Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. More details are available by calling Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 at (636) 479-3219, or by visiting woosprint.com/ironman-55.
Race fans unable to attend this weekend’s races can catch all of the action on DIRTVision.com. Fans can listen live as Johnny Gibson, “Voice of the Outlaws,” calls the action as he does at all WoO Sprint Series events on the DIRTVision.com cybercast, as well as on the DIRT Radio Network. Go to www.DIRTVision.com for more information on all the site features, including updated results from each night of racing, as well as a chat room to interact with other race fans.
Donny Schatz, Driver of the No. 15 TSR Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance J&J:
One goal for the Bad Boy Buggies/Chevrolet Performance team this season was to have better success at tracks where you may not have been successful in the past. Does I-55 fit into that list of places where you are hoping to improve?
“We’re trying to get better everywhere we go. There are a number of places where we haven’t gotten the wins we feel like we should have over the years and Rick (Warner), Steve (Swenson) and Eric (Prutzman) made a commitment to getting us better at those places … getting better at the places we feel like we’ve struggled at and continue performing at a high level at the places where we have been good in the past. We saw the results earlier in the year with our California swing and we’re still working on it. We’ve been good enough to finish second at Pevely quite a few times but not quite good enough to win. We’d certainly like to be better there this weekend. Earlier in the year, we got behind the eight ball in qualifying and never really recovered. Friday, we’ll go back after it in qualifying and see if we can put ourselves in a little better position.”
The Ironman 55 is the season’s longest race. With it being 15 laps longer than you traditionally race at Pevely, does your strategy change?
“You still have to be aggressive but you also have to be patient at times, too. The goal is to start near the front so you can keep an eye on what the leaders are doing and where they are racing. Pevely is a track where you have to be able to exit the corners square and get down to the next corner. Sometimes that is on the cushion. Sometimes it’s coming off the bottom. You have to use traffic to your advantage. It’s August in St. Louis, so it’s going to be hot. I know (track owner) Ray Marler and his staff will do everything they can to give us a good surface, but you still have to manage your tires somewhat, too. There is some strategy but, at the end of the night, you have to have a car that allows you to move around. I have the best crew in the business and I know they are going to give me a car that gives us a chance.”
There is $20,000 on the line Saturday and, with next week’s Knoxville Nationals looming, does the added prize money increase the pressure?
“There isn’t any additional pressure within our team. We have set some pretty lofty expectations and succeeding in these higher-paying races is a priority. It’s fun to be part of biggest events. It reminds you why you do this. The fans will be excited. You’ll be able to feel it when we are rolling around the track doing the four abreast. These are the races that you really look forward to.”
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